THE VANDAL by Hamish Linklater at The Carpenter Shop Theatre in Tivoli, NY.
Directed by Amy Lemon Olson
We’re at the center of the triangle.
Dying, (points to the Hospital)
Dead, (points at cemetery)
Drunk. (points at Liquor Store)
Dying. Dead. Drunk. That’s the Center of the uncanny Triangle in Linklater’s all-too-human tale of the unexpected. A chance encounter at a freezing bus stop leads to a marginally criminal act, a widow buying a minor illicit beer in a liquor store, leading to a chain of confessions revealing a desperate past. Of a widow watching her husband die of cancer, of a boy never knowing his mother, of a father in desperate search of his boy.
The last, a widower with a missing wife, who lives day to day, chasing the elusive figure of his son, hoping against hope the lad will appear in the door of his liquor store to buy his own liquor and chips.
All lead to a reckoning in a graveyard in twilight–where no lie or liars are colder than the truth of a headstone.
  • Jill Van Note plays the down-on-her-luck threadbare widow. "My husband quit his job when they told him (he had cancer) and I did too, so we could spend those last months– But then he didn’t die–(sic) You know what time’s good for? Nothing. A heart attack’s better, a car crash, a bolt from the blue–you wanna tell me it’s better to watch a husband die for three years–"
  • Samuel Hoeksema plays the irrepressible Boy, a young man of a thousand hopes and dreams and a grasp of the universe as seen through innocent eyes. "What if the chip is the soul, the flavor dust is magic, the fingers what you do with your soul and the mouth Deep Space?"
  • Michael Rhodes is the perfect grieving man with nothing but his memories for company and in the greatest offering of all–an improbable bag of Cool Ranch Chips set on his son’s headstone like flowers on the family plot. "I’ve never seen him. Since. I’ve tried running out to the bus stop. I don’t know. I probably couldn’t really take that. Seeing him. (sic) But it’s nice huh? How he takes care of me? Sending me visitors, and then sending a nice woman like you."
Amy Olson’s direction is deft and chiseled–revealing the actors and their lines in stark relief: whether it’s the Boy in motor-mouth mode or the tipsy hard luck Woman or the Man in bitter interrogation of anyone who crosses his path. The whole ensemble echoing Boris Lemontov‘s observation in The Red Shoes, "Don’t forget, a great impression of simplicity can only be achieved by great agony of body and spirit."
Actor/Playwright Linklater has managed an exploration of our humanity, our frailties, our hidden strengths. And managed it without forgetting the greatest plot device of all time, A Stranger Comes to Town which the author employs as well as any devotee of Hitchcock.
In the end, the immortal soul is at the center of The Vandal’s Triangle–whether dying, dead or drunk. It may be asking a lot of City Folk to come up to the Hudson Valley for an evening at the theatre, but you’ll leave the house haunted and amazed.
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